In Brief

NYC congestion tax delay gives commuters temporary reprieve

By: - August 24, 2021 6:54 am

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-05) said he vehemently opposes any New York congestion pricing that would hurt New Jersey commuters.

New Jerseysans who commute into Manhattan by car are getting a temporary reprieve from a new congestion tax that will hit motorists with a roughly $13 fee for driving below Central Park.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority announced a potential two-year timeline to implement the long-stalled plan on Friday. New York officials blasted the MTA for the timetable, but leaders here in the Garden State want the tax stopped altogether.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-05), who calls the fee the “Manhattan moocher tax,” said the plan will harm constituents in parts of New Jersey where there are no public transit options for getting into Manhattan.

“So you’re a nurse and there’s no way to get there except getting up early, drive in, and then you’re hit with a congestion tax,” Gottheimer said Monday. “Then they take it and pocket it into the MTA? I don’t understand that.”

After a yearslong delay, the MTA announced Friday it received federal approval for a 16-month environmental assessment of its congestion pricing plan, with the tolling technology to be installed within the following 10 months, according to Gothamist. Drivers would pay a fee of between $10 and $15 to drive south of 60th Street, with truck drivers paying more. Prices would fluctuate based on time of day and other considerations.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a champion of congestion pricing, told reporters in July the city needs the revenue “as fast as humanly possible” to address what he calls a transportation crisis.

“It’s now clear there is no way to address it without congestion pricing and other dedicated revenue streams,” he said.

New York would be the first city in the nation to impose a congestion tax, which passed the state Legislature in 2019. It’s expected to bring in $1 billion in annual revenue, which will be used to improve the city’s notoriously underfunded bus and subway systems.

New York lawmakers are calling on incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul to prioritize the impending tolls after she takes helm of New York’s state government Tuesday. A spokeswoman for Gottheimer said the congressman will send Hochul, a Democrat, a letter urging her to reconsider her support for congestion pricing. She’s still mulling over the pace and timing of the plan, according to the New York Times.

Gov. Phil Murphy has said he’s opposed to the tax that “discriminates against New Jersey commuters,” adding the Garden State should also see benefits from the toll revenue.

Gottheimer represents parts of Bergen, Sussex, and Warren counties. Bergen is home to hundreds of thousands of daily commuters, he said, while the two other counties don’t have beefed-up transit systems that can get residents to New York City in under two hours.

He noted New Jersey commuters would pay an estimated $3,000 per year in additional tolls. That’s not including the $16 fee to drive over the George Washington Bridge, or the $15 toll to get in through the Holland Tunnel.

Asked if he would consider supporting the tax if some of the revenue was directed to New Jersey public transit, Gottheimer said, “If one day we have mass transit everywhere and people like that nurse can get in with no problem, then we can have that policy discussion, but right now I’m totally opposed.”

The three-term lawmaker introduced legislation, the Anti-Congestion Tax Act, that would prohibit the Secretary of Transportation from awarding grants to MTA projects until New Jersey commuters receive exemption from the tax, and would amend IRS code to offer Garden State drivers a tax credit equal to the amount paid in congestion taxes.

“You’re trying to get people to come back to New York City after Covid, and you’re going to hit them with a congestion tax?” Gottheimer said.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.